How password managers work

How password managers work

1Password by 1Password on

You’ve probably heard of a few password management options, like 1Password (👋), Dashlane, and LastPass – but what do they all do?

We’ve all dealt with the pains of password management, but there’s a lot more to it. Whether it’s repeatedly resetting passwords, searching for your wallet every time you want to make an online purchase, or struggling to securely share passwords, we need digital life management, too – and that’s where a password manager comes in.

So, let’s take a deeper look at what password managers are, how they work, if they’re safe, and everything else you may need to know.

What is a password manager?

Simply put, password managers are apps that can generate and store all the passwords for your online accounts in one secure place.

The passwords are stored securely and, using autofill, can be automatically entered on websites and apps when you need to log in. It creates and remembers strong, unique passwords – and you don’t have to type out or memorize them, saving you from having to constantly reset your passwords when they’re inevitably forgotten.

Many other common forms of password management, including simply reusing the one password you’ve memorized for every account or just writing them down, can put your security at risk:

  • When you use the same, often weak, password everywhere, a hacker only needs to crack it once to gain access to all your important information.
  • Not only is it inconvenient to properly manage passwords stored in a notebook or on sticky notes, passwords stored this way are often reused, vulnerable to hacking, and susceptible to social engineering.

The best password managers, like 1Password, will offer options to store more than just strong passwords, like credit cards, financial accounts, sensitive documents, secure notes, and more. Additional features can include syncing passwords across devices, secure password sharing, data breach detection, dark web monitoring, two-factor authentication, end to end encryption, and more.

Not only do password managers offer the convenience of generating and storing strong, unique passwords, they centralize cybersecurity controls while encouraging good security habits. They can help you avoid weak passwords, protect your sensitive information from phishing and cybercriminals, and alert you to security issues you can fix to stay safe.

Using a password manager is the safest and most convenient option for staying secure online, particularly when compared to the alternatives, like memorizing passwords, duplicating passwords, or even using a free password manager with very limited features.

How do password managers work?

So what exactly is happening when you use a cloud-based password manager to create a password? In the case of 1Password, here’s a basic overview:

  • 1Password randomly generates a strong password using a built-in strong password generator.
  • The password is automatically saved in your password vault.
  • Your vault is end-to-end encrypted using AES 256-bit encryption and guarded by other security measures. This means that what you save in 1Password is protected on our servers, in transit, and on your device.
  • 1Password uses a zero-knowledge approach, which means only you have the keys to your information — it’s never visible or accessible to 1Password.
  • Your 1Password account password and Secret Key combine to provide incredibly powerful protection.
  • The updated version of your encrypted vault data is sent to 1Password’s server for syncing and that new password will be available across all of your devices.

Having a general understanding of a password manager’s functionality, including security and privacy, can help you choose the right password management system for you.

Do password managers work on all devices?

The best password managers will sync information seamlessly across all of your devices, operating systems, and web browsers.

For example, 1Password is available on Mac, iOS, Windows, Android, and Linux, and you can get the 1Password browser extension for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, and Brave.

Password syncing means your data is shared across all your devices. You only need to sign in to 1Password on a new device, and all your saved passwords and other important information are available nearly instantly. Let’s say you update a password using the 1Password browser extension for Firefox on your laptop. That password will also automatically be updated on the 1Password for iOS app on your iPad, and the 1Password for Android app on your phone, without any extra work.

Are password managers safe to use?

Password managers are a safe, effective way to increase your online protection and enforce secure passwords both at home and at work. Using a password manager is a much better option than any of the alternatives.

Password managers can also offer additional protection from hackers and cybercriminals. Here are some examples of how 1Password does much more than create strong passwords:

  • When 1Password saves your passwords, it also saves the exact URLs they should be used on. That means 1Password won’t offer to autofill your passwords on scam phishing sites with deceiving URLs (for example, rather than
  • 1Password lets you know which sites offer two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) so you can easily activate this extra layer of security.
  • 1Password will continuously flag weak passwords and password reuse by identifying which items share a password and which passwords are easy to guess. 1Password will automatically offer an option to update those saved items so you can easily generate new, secure passwords on the spot.

Lastly, while it may seem counterintuitive to keep all of your sensitive data in one place, most established password managers employ several layers of security against data breaches, like end-to-end encryption and a zero-knowledge approach.

Your password manager should keep your data safe, even in the unlikely event their servers are breached. For example, in addition to the account password you choose, 1Password protects your information with your unique 128-bit Secret Key that’s never shared with us or our server. Even if an attacker actually knows your account password, your Secret Key has enough entropy to keep your 1Password data safe. That means a random attacker trying to guess both your account password and Secret Key wouldn’t stand a chance.

Family password management

Many password managers offer subscription options not just for yourself, but for your loved ones, as well. Whether it’s your spouse, kids, or roommates, sharing a password manager with your nearest and dearest can significantly streamline your digital lives.

1Password Individual and 1Password Families offer robust features like:


  • Autofill logins, financial information, two-factor codes, credit card information, and much more.
  • Securely share individual items stored in 1Password, like the Wi-Fi password or login information, with anyone – even if they don’t use 1Password.
  • Use guest 1Password accounts to share vaults with anyone for a limited time.
  • Organize your stored items using tags, categories, and collections so you can easily find whatever you need.


  • Get security alerts for websites where your passwords may have been exposed in a data breach
  • Identify reused and weak passwords by seeing which items use the same password and which passwords are easy to guess.
  • Identify non-secure logins you’ve saved for websites that support HTTPS.
  • Find logins for websites that support two-factor authentication, but don’t have a one-time password.
  • Find items that have expired or are expiring soon, so you can take action (like credit cards, memberships, and driver’s licenses that are expiring within 2 months).

Business password management

From small and growing businesses to large enterprises, every organization needs a password manager. 1Password can help you monitor for security threats, comply with security standards, improve productivity, and reduce the workload around secrets management so you can balance the various needs across your organization. 1Password Business and Enterprise solutions come with additional features like:

Administrative controls

  • Tailor 1Password to your needs by creating custom sign-in rules and monitor access for events like sign-in attempts.
  • Create and manage custom groups to organize your team and delegate responsibilities.
  • Easy to deploy with support available every step of the way, along with extensive support documentation, free webinars, resources, and 1Password University.
  • Free Families plan for all users to encourage great security habits at home, too.

Security and reporting

  • Generate custom reports (usage, breach, account activity).
  • Create and manage custom groups to organize your team and delegate responsibilities.
  • Get actionable recommendations on potential breaches, password health issues, and team usage with 1Password Insights.
  • Proactively prevent threats and increase compliance with custom security policies.


  • Unlock with Single Sign-On (SSO).
  • Provisioning with Azure AD, Google Workspace, Okta, OneLogin, Rippling, and JumpCloud.
  • Stream events to SIEM tools like Splunk, Elastic, Sumo Logic, and Panther (or build your own integration).

Making password management simple

When it comes to quickly locating important logins, sharing password access with others, and securing your most sensitive information, there’s really no simpler solution than a password manager.

In fact, with a password manager like 1Password, not only can you prevent cybersecurity from being complicated, you can actually make managing your digital life easy.

Secure your digital life with 1Password

Organize and secure all your online accounts with 1Password, the world’s most-trusted password manager. Get started today with a free 14-day trial.
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